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Crack in Los Angeles: Historical Reflections on the War on Drugs and "Crack Crisis" in Late Twentieth Century L.A.

Feminist Conversations Spring 2014

Rutgers Professor Donna Murch discusses the War on Drugs, crack, and race in Los Angeles.

The militarization of policing that emerged in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellions, and accelerated following the LAPD’s attack on the Panthers’ Headquarters on Central Aveune and the Symbionese Liberation Army reached its apex during the city’s War on Drugs (WODs) in the 1980s and 1990s. It is in this domestic context that the local crack economy took off fed by the geopolitics of Cold War support for Nicaraguan anti-communist insurgents. As large numbers of Black and Brown youth were subjected to harassment, social marginalization, and incarceration, the “crack crisis” and War on Drugs (WoD) became a major focus of activism. This talk will provide an overview of these developments, discuss their importance to the social history of communities of color in L.A., and consider the variety of responses to this new era of  “law and order” politics. 



Donna Murch is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, director of Black Atlantic (2008-present), and co-director of the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis from 2010-2012. Her teaching and research specializations are postwar U.S. history, modern African American history, twentieth-century urban studies, and the political economy of drugs. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of History at U.C. Berkeley and has won numerous fellowships and awards, including a Teaching Effectiveness Award and a Woodrow Wilson postdoctoral fellowship. Professor Murch has published several scholarly articles and has recently completed a book entitled Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, which won the Phillis Wheatley Award in December 2011. Professor Murch is currently researching a new book on the social history of crack cocaine and the War on Drugs in Los Angeles.